What to Know about Floaters

Metrolina Eye is now offering Laser Eye Floater Treatment at all North Carolina locations. Read on to learn more about what eye floaters are, what causes eye floaters, and when you should seek treatment.

What’s that floating spot in my vision?

Have you ever noticed those annoying little spots floating across your vision? If you have, you’ve probably wondered what they are and whether or not you should be worried about them. Well, in most cases they are harmless, but rarely they can be cause for concern.Floaters

What exactly is a “floater”?

Floaters are actually little particles inside the eye. Though it may seem as if they are moving or floating in front of you, they are really part of the gel inside your eye called vitreous. The vitreous humor fills the empty space inside the eyeball. As we age this vitreous humor can begin to liquefy and small collagen particles within it can begin to clump together. They may look like small squiggly lines, dots, circles, or cobwebs. When light enters the eye and hits them a certain way, small shadows are formed on the retina. This causes you to perceive them in your vision. And because they are within this liquefied gel inside the eye, they tend to move and “float” around. They are generally most noticeable on a bright sunny day and when looking at a plain white background or computer screen. And though they can be very annoying at times, floaters are generally harmless. There are a few situations, however, when floaters can be a warning sign of a bigger problem.

When should floaters worry me?

If you experience sudden large floaters, especially if they are accompanied by flashes of light, then there may be some cause for concern. As the vitreous liquefies over time it may eventually pull away and detach from the retina in the back of the eye. This is called a “vitreous detachment”. When your vitreous detaches it may remain attached to some areas of your retina and tug on it, causing a tear in the retina. If the retina tears it will put you at risk for a retinal detachment. While a vitreous detachment is harmless, a retinal detachment can cause severe vision loss if not promptly diagnosed and treated. So if you experience the symptoms of a vitreous detachment; especially if there are flashes of light in your vision, a loss of peripheral vision, or a large curtain in your vision; its important to see your eye doctor right away.

What if I get a retinal tear or detachment?

If you have these symptoms and your eye doctor detects a retinal tear, then early treatment can prevent any major problems. You will be referred to a retinal surgeon who performs a laser procedure that seals off the tear so that it can’t progress to a retinal detachment. However, if a detachment has already occurred, the treatment may involve more invasive surgeries that may or may not prevent vision loss. That’s why it is imperative to have any sudden large floaters with flashes evaluated as soon as possible.

Other possible causes of floaters

There are a few other rare causes of spots in the vision that may appear similar to floaters. In diabetics a condition called diabetic retinopathy can cause bleeding and swelling in the retina. If this bleeding becomes severe it can spread into the vitreous and cause a “vitreous hemorrhage”. This may also look like a floating spot in the vision, but instead of being able to see through or around it easily it will generally block a large portion of vision. Other rare conditions that involve swelling in the retina may also cause spots in the vision that may be confused with floaters, however, these spots will be more stationary in the vision and not “float” around.

So, if you have any of these symptoms, or you are worried about your floaters, simply call our office to schedule an appointment. One of our Eye Care Specialists will take great care of you and diagnose what is taking place.

By Dr. Jason Berkebile